Does this sound familiar?: What did I have for breakfast? Why do you ask? (And you burp again and smile sheepishly.)
It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just your food and gut playing up. So, instead of moping and squirming uncomfortably in the presence of company, learn to deal with it.
A good start in your deflation journey is to understand what causes bloating. Let’s get to the root cause.
What and how you eat determines the extent your tummy is distended.
You can look at your distended tummy from three angles (yes, it’s a semi-sphere but please focus on the relevant point here). It may be caused by too much stored food, too much gas, or too much water retention.
Overeating or eating too fast and, hence, overeating can cause your stomach to look rounder than usual. The solution to this is simple. Eat smaller portions.
Eating fat-rich foods that take longer to digest and, hence, stay in your stomach longer is also another contributing factor.
The obvious excuse for a burp, fart, or heartburn, “gas” is mostly swallowed air or the fermentation products of intestinal bacteria as they break down foods that your body can’t (Will get to this in a bit).
Consumption of excess salt or sugar triggers an electrolyte imbalance that spirals into water retention in your body. This makes you look and feel something like this…
Now that you know the mechanics of it, it’s time to be proactive.
Stop swallowing extra air.
It sounds a bit odd, but that’s what many of us unintentionally do.
Avoid guzzling, sucking (smokers pay attention), drinking through straws, mindlessly chewing gum for hours on end, and swallowing hard when nervous. All of these gestures cause you to swallow extra air that gets trapped in your gut.
Steer clear of foods that contain extra air or are difficult to digest.
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty of it, let’s talk about FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols). These are a group of short-chain carbs (nothing but sugars) that our bodies cannot digest because we lack alpha-galactosidase, the enzyme needed to break them down. These carbs escape digestion in the stomach and move down to the intestines. We rely on intestinal bacteria that are equipped with the enzyme to ferment these sugars while we provide them with nourishment in gratitude (win-win!). As a result, gas comprising carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen is produced and causes bloating.
In a nutshell, avoid these…
1. Sodas: All those tiny carbon dioxide bubbles cheerily roll down your food pipe and park themselves in your stomach.
2. Salt: Salt enhances water retention in cells. Don’t add much salt while cooking and avoid processed foods as they are loaded with preservatives (read: salts).
3. Legumes: These include beans, lentils, and soybeans–all of which are FODMAPs. Soaking them in water overnight can help avoid bloating.
4. Wheat and rye: Also FODMAPs, and of particular concern if you’re gluten sensitive.
5. Cruciferous vegetables: Also FODMAPs, these include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc. Cook them to facilitate better digestion.
6. Onions and garlic: FODMAPs again (You’re getting the drift, right?).
7. Artificial sweeteners: These sugar alcohols are also FODMAPs (What a surprise!).
8. Fiber-rich foods: These include lentils, barley, and rye. Suddenly increasing your fiber intake without giving your body the chance to adjust to the change can cause bloating.
9. Apples: They are rich in both fructose (so a FODMAP) and fibers.
10. Dairy products: Many people are innately incapable of breaking down the milk sugar lactose. This can cause bloating. So, cut back on milk and the Swiss cheeses.
Don’t sigh. It’s not like you’re unfamiliar with the beer belly. Also a FODMAP (don’t worry, this is the last one on the list), beer contains carbon dioxide like our non-alcohol soda counterparts.
Feeling battered with the don’ts?
Here’s what you CAN do.
Drink plenty of water (at least half your body weight in ounces), use healthier sugar substitutes like xylitol, and consume anti-bloat foods like bananas, papayas, ginger, asparagus, and yogurt.
Here’s an anti-bloat smoothie recipe you can try.
How worried should you be if you just realized you feel bloated?
If it’s a one-off occurrence, relax. If not, it may be indicative of malfunctioning stomach valves, intestinal muscles, or abnormally enlarged digestive organs. If it’s the latter, seek medical attention.
After all the drilling, ‘FODMOPs’ is for sure imprinted in your brain. It’s time you feel comfortable sitting with jeans on, flaunt a comparatively flatter stomach, and maintain social etiquette stress free.